In this current year, 2009, there’s a great selection of modern web browsers available that allow us to happily complete our day-to-day work and recreational web surfing. From Mozilla’s “Firefox”, to Google’s “Chrome” and Apple’s “Safari”, there’s a browser out there to meet everyone’s needs.
One of the great things about these modern browsers is their ability to deliver rich web applications to users featuring the latest usability features and good ol’ fashioned bells and whistles that make Internet usage practical, efficient and fun. There is, however, a lingering issue out there that is none-too-apparent to web developers like myself, which often prevents us from providing truly perfect web sites and applications for our users.
The IE6 Headache
You see, there’s this “ugly” browser out there called Internet Explorer 6 (IE6) that remains the chosen browser of many, especially in the corporate sphere. IE6, developed by Microsoft, was considered a cutting edge browser back in its day (which was way back in 2001 incidentally). These days, however, it’s pretty much the ONE browser that behaves differently to all other modern browsers and makes web development a complete pain in the ass for the coders that bring you your favourite websites.
Take this very Blog for example. Here’s what my site looks like for a Firefox 3.0 user as compared to what is dished up to an IE6 user:
As you can see, not ideal. I choose not to pander to IE6 users for my own personal work, but I can’t tell you how many hours I have wasted hacking and breaking perfect, standards compliant code in order for client’s sites to be viewed correctly, and not appear broken in IE6. It’s resulted in a high blood pressure for me, and hours of wasted budget dollars for my clients.
I could go on and on about this subject, but all you really need to know to be abreast of the subject is the following:
- Home users who use IE6 for nothing other than everyday web surfing have no excuse not to upgrade their browsers. That’s all that needs to be said on that matter.
- Corporate users who are tied to using archaic software applications tied to IE6, or who are forced to comply with browser usage guidelines usually enforced by lazy IT departments, don’t really have a choice…
“Google Chrome Frame” Arrives
In a move that won’t be considered a solution to the aforementioned IE6 problem (but will certainly help the situation), those crafty geniuses over at Google today released a nifty Internet Explorer plugin called “Google Chrome Frame”. Based on the same framework used to power Google’s sleek and powerful browser “Google Chrome”, the new plugin basically empowers Internet Explorer to behave and display websites in the same way that Google Chrome (and therefore most other modern browsers) would.
The really cool thing about this new release from Google is that it’s dead simple to install. Developers need only add one simple line of code to their web pages that will be read and used by Internet Explorer, and ignored by all other browsers:
<meta http-equiv="X-UA-Compatible" content="chrome=1">
And the Internet Explorer users? Well they may still have a battle on their hands with IT departments, but all they need to do is download and install the Google Chrome Frame plugin here:
The “Google Wave” Motivation
So why would Google go to all this trouble? Well, in approximately 1 week’s time, Google are releasing to 100,000 pre-registered initial users (including me *fingers crossed*), their latest innovation called “Google Wave”. Touted as the “next generation” of web-based communication, Google Wave is a real-time, collaborative web-based service which is used to effectively merge e-mail, instant messaging, wiki, and social networking.
Only one problem. Google Wave won’t work on IE6 – therefore locking out all the corporate users Google are looking to target with this new collaborative application.
Their solution? Google Chrome Frame. Magic!
One would hope that this is just one more step towards the total eradication of IE6. Like I mentioned before, Google Chrome Frame isn’t the golden solution us developers are looking for, but there’s no doubt that it’s a big step in the right direction thanks to one of the Internet’s true heavy hitters.